dear abigail::learning names...

>> March 1, 2010

Dear Abigail,
Our family moved to a new church about 2 1/2 months ago.  This church is bigger than our last one and it's taking quite awhile to learn names.  What do you suggest I do to learn names and get to know our members better in these early months?

Dear CJ,
There are many ways to get to know your new church members. The question is how much time you have each week and how big your congregation is. If it's a smallish congregation, and you have the time, you can invite over the families for a game night or for Friday night spaghetti or whatever is your style. 

If your church is bigger, you could host an "open house" in your home and invite your congregation to a come-and-go event. Provide finger foods and drinks, and let everyone mingle at their leisure. As guests arrive, snap a polaroid photograph of each couple or family, and have them sign their names on a small card or paper to go with their picture. After the dinner you can put the photos and signatures into a scrapbook for dual duty: to help jog your memory for their names, and to create a keepsake of your early days in this congregation. 

For learning names, here are a few tricks to consider:
  • when you meet a member for the first time, ask their name, and then repeat it several times during the conversation immediately following, i.e.: "It's nice to meet you Kelly! So, Kelly, how long have you been attending here?" You might feel a little corny, but repeating their name several times while looking at their face will help cement the name into your memory.
  • if it's a difficult or unusual name, ask them how it's spelled 
  • if it's a common or easy name, try to figure out an association to go with it such as: Jack Smith, with black hair (Jack rhymes with black), etc...
  • if you can, keep a pack of 3x5 cards handy, with one card per family. Write down names and add any pertinent details about them - church positions, age of children, shared hobbies or whatever else might help you remember
In addition, don't be afraid to just admit it when you forget. Remind people, in good humor, that while they have only two or three new names to learn, you have 150 (or however many people are in your new church). Tell them that you want very much to get to know them, and ask them to please feel free to remind you of their names each time you see them, to help you out. 

Just knowing that you're trying is enough to make them feel loved and cared about! 


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